Job 28:1-28

Submitted by admin on Sat, 2015-03-14 18:58.

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Already in ancient times, humans found ways to extract metals from the earth. As Job noted, there was a location “for silver” or a place where silver could be mined (a “place from which it comes” [LXX]). There also was a “place” to find gold, which people refined. (28:1)

For their use, men obtained “iron from the ground.” According to a literal reading of the Hebrew text, “One will pour out stone [into] copper.” This is commonly understood to mean that ore is smelted to produce the metal. The Septuagint says that copper is “hewn like stone.” (28:2)

Possibly the reference to an “end being put to darkness” refers to using lamps in which olive oil served as fuel to provide illumination for mining operations. To the farthest limits man searched out “stone” or ore in “darkness” and “death’s shadow” or deep darkness. This would have been in made-made underground shafts and tunnels. The Septuagint says that “he sets order to darkness.” This could refer to God as the one who brought light to the darkness or to man as the one who used light from lamps to dispel the gloom. (28:3; see the Notes section.)

“In a valley,” away from areas where travelers would pass, men sank shafts. The reference to “being forgotten from foot” suggests that the mining operations were carried out in an uninhabited area through which people would usually not have traveled. Suspended from ropes and in a remote location away “from men,” miners would swing back and forth in the shafts. (28:4; see the Notes section.)

“Out of the earth” or the soil “comes bread,” or the grain that is ground into flour for baking bread. Under the earth, the activity is referred to as an overturning “like fire.” This could refer to mining operations. The process of extracting metals and precious stones from the earth is comparable to the effects of a destructive fire. (28:5; see the Notes section.)

The “stones” (or the veins in rock) of the earth are the “place of the sapphire,” a precious gem of corundum and, in this context, probably the deep blue variety. Also in the earth is “dust of gold,” which could refer to gold flecks. The Greek version of Theodotion refers to a “mound” (a mound of earth) as containing gold. (28:6)

The “pathway” could include the one in the remote location for mining operations and the underground shafts and tunnels there. No “raptor” knows or is acquainted with this pathway, and the “eye of a falcon” (’ayyáh), though known for keen vision, “has not seen it.” The Hebrew word ’ayyáh is thought to imitate the cry of the raptor. Suggested lexical meanings for the designation include falcon, hawk, kite, and black kite. The Greek text from the version of Theodotion says “vulture” (gyps). (28:7)

The pathway unfamiliar to raptors is also one on which no proud beasts (literally, “sons of pride”) or powerful predators “have trodden,” and no lion has passed over it. In the Greek version of Theodotion, the Hebrew expression that can designate “proud beasts” is literally translated “sons of braggarts” or proud boasters. (28:8)

While engaging in mining operations, “man sets his hand to the flinty rock.” According to the Greek version of Theodotion, “he stretched out his hand” either with a sharp-edged rock or in a quarried space (akrótomos). The Greek word akrótomos is an adjective and can apply to something that is sharp, chiseled, sharp edged, or roughly quarried. Miners excavated tunnels underground in mountainous terrain, and so man could be said to “overturn mountains by the roots.” (28:9)

“In the rocks,” man “hews out channels” (literally, “streams”). The objective is to locate precious metals and gems. Then man’s “eye sees every precious thing.” The Septuagint says that man “divided whirlpools of rivers” and then represents Job as saying, “Every valuable thing my eye saw.” (28:10)

Man “binds up streams from weeping.” If this relates to mining operations, the reference would be to damming up subterranean streams to facilitate access to precious stones and metals. Man brings to light that which was hidden from view below the surface of the ground. (28:11)

The wording of translations that do not follow the vowel pointing of the Masoretic Text is different. “He explores the sources of rivers.” (NJB) “He probes the wellsprings of the streams.” (NAB) “They also uncover the sources of rivers.” (CEV) According to these renderings, the objective of the exploration is to bring hidden things to light. The Septuagint says that man “uncovered the depth of the rivers, and he displayed his power to light.” This could mean that, through his explorations and his efforts to extract precious stones and metals, man revealed his power in the light or made it visible. (28:11)

In this context, “wisdom” does not designate the human capacity for applying knowledge to attain certain objectives or to handle problems that may arise. It relates to God’s wisdom as revealed in his dealings. What he may do or permit in keeping with his purpose is not something human intellect can systematize or grasp. For humans, the wisdom of which God is the source calls for a reverential response to him as the one who alone understands it. (28:23, 28) In relation to this wisdom, the rhetorical question is raised, “Where shall wisdom be found, and where [is] the place of understanding?” The words that follow indicate where it cannot be found in the human realm. (28:12)

According to the extant Hebrew text, man “does not know its evaluation” or cannot fully comprehend the great worth of the wisdom that has God as its source. The Septuagint says of a mortal that he “does not know its way” or really understand the workings of this wisdom. “It is not found in the land of the living” or in the realm of human life and activity. The Septuagint says that it will “not be found among men” or humans. (28:13)

The wisdom of which God is the source cannot be found or discovered in the deepest place or in the sea. Job represented the “deep” (the “abyss” [Theodotion]) as saying, “It is not in me”; and the sea as saying, “It is not with me.” (28:14; see the Notes section.)

In this context, the Hebrew word segóhr, which can mean “encasement” or “enclosure” (Hosea 13:8), is (based on Akkadian) considered to designate gold. Modern translations have variously rendered the word (“red gold” [REB], “solid gold” [NAB, NJB], “gold” [NRSV], “finest gold” [NIV]). In exchange for the wisdom that has God as its source, one cannot give gold nor weigh out an amount of silver as its price. This wisdom simply cannot be bought. (28:15; see the Notes section.)

The location of Ophir has not been positively identified with a known location. This region was anciently famed for its fine gold. Wisdom, however, “cannot be weighed” or estimated against (“compared with” [Theodotion]) “precious” or highly valued “onyx [a semiprecious stone] and sapphire” (a precious stone, probably deep blue in color). It was of far greater worth. (28:16; see the Notes section.)

“Gold and glass,” or the value thereof, “cannot equal” wisdom, and a “vessel of refined gold” would not have been of sufficient worth to be given in exchange for it. (28:17)

The reference to “coral and crystal” not being mentioned indicates that these precious items also did not have sufficient value to buy wisdom. In the extant Hebrew text, the last word is peniním, which has been understood to designate “pearls,” “rubies,” “coral,” and “red coral.” Its relationship to a “bag” or “bagful of wisdom” is not specifically expressed. This accounts for a variety of renderings in modern translations. “A pouch of wisdom is better than rubies.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition) “A parcel of wisdom fetches more than red coral.” (REB) “It surpasses pearls.” (NAB) “The price of wisdom is beyond rubies.” (NIV) “Better go fishing for Wisdom than for pearls!” (NJB) The Greek text that was added from the version of Theodotion reveals that the Hebrew text was not well understood. It says, “Celestial items and gabis [a transliteration of the Hebrew word rendered “crystal”] will not be brought to mind,” possibly as a purchase price for wisdom. “And you, draw wisdom above the innermost things” Perhaps this means that one should prefer wisdom to the precious things that are concealed in the earth and are the most difficult to find or to extract. (28:18)

The “topaz of Cush [Ethiopia (Theodotion)] cannot compare with” (“will not be equal to”) wisdom. It “cannot be weighed” (“compared with” [Theodotion]) or estimated against “pure gold.” Wisdom is far too precious. (28:19)

Verse 20, with slightly different wording, repeats the thought expressed in verse 12 (which see). (28:20)

“Wisdom” and the “place of understanding” are basically parallel expressions. Therefore, either one may be considered as “hidden from the eyes of all the living,” for it cannot be found through human effort. God is the source of wisdom. According to the Septuagint, it has escaped the detection of “every man.” The extant Hebrew text and the Greek text that Origen marked as added to the Septuagint from the version of Theodotion indicate that wisdom also “was concealed from the birds of heaven.” Although possessing keen vision and able to see from a vantage point above the land while in flight, birds cannot locate the place where wisdom is found. (28:21; see the Notes section.)

“Abbadon” (or Destruction personified) and Death say, “With our ears we have heard a report of it [wisdom].” This indicates that, just as in the case of the land of the living, wisdom is not found in the realm of the dead. It is as if only a rumor about wisdom has been heard there. (28:22; see the Notes section.)

God is the One who has “understood” the “way” to wisdom. He alone is the One who knows how it can be obtained. He also knows “its place” or where it is to be found. The Septuagint rendering reads much like the extant Hebrew text. “God has established its way well, and he knows its place.” (28:23)

God “looks to the ends of the earth,” and “he sees under all of the heavens.” According to the Septuagint, “He observes everything under heaven,” or everyone and everything in the earthly realm. The Septuagint then identifies him as the One who made everything and as knowing it. The concluding phrase of the Septuagint reads, “since he knows everything on the earth he has made.” With nothing being concealed from his sight, God, unlike man, knows where the place for finding wisdom is located. (28:24)

The Hebrew text represents God as making a “weight” for the “wind.” This could mean that he gives it power or that he controls the force of the wind. The Septuagint rendering identifies God as knowing the “weight of winds and the measures of water.” This wording suggests that he knows the force winds can exert and the amount of water available to be allotted for rain. The Hebrew text seemingly refers to the distribution of water in the form of precipitation. It says regarding God that “he meted out waters by measure.” (28:25)

The reference to a “decree for the rain” may refer to the path that rain seems to follow as it descends. This “decree” is attributed to God. He is also said to make a “way” or path for the “lightning of thunders.” The expression “lightning of thunders [literally, sounds]” could refer to a thunderbolt, for it appears to travel a path to the ground. (28:26; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

What God saw is not specifically identified, but the Hebrew pronominal suffix is feminine gender (as also is the pronoun in the Greek version of Theodotion). This provides a basis for considering the reference to be to wisdom. A number of modern translations are specific in their renderings. “It was then he saw wisdom.”(REB) “Then he saw wisdom.” (NAB) “Then he looked at wisdom.” (NIV) Regarding it, the verse continues, “he declared it, established it, and also searched it out.” In relation to his creative work, God “declared” wisdom. This could signify that he determined how it would be applied, thus defining its function. He “established” or prepared it for its role. His “searching it out” could refer to finding out what wisdom could accomplish by putting it to the test through use. (28:27; see the Notes section.)

In the case of humans, what true wisdom is has been divinely revealed. The “fear of the Lord,” or a reverential regard for the Almighty God, is “wisdom,” and to “turn away from evil” (evils [LXX]) is “understanding.” An upright life distinguished by a wholesome fear of God is thus identified as one that manifests wisdom or understanding. It is the proper use of knowledge and the right response to the dictates of a God-given conscience. (28:28)


The wording of verse 3 that corresponds to that of the extant Hebrew text is, according to the marks of Origen, taken from the Greek version of Theodotion. “And he carefully examines every limit: stone — darkness and death’s shadow, …” Possibly the meaning is that “stone” or ore is found in places that light does not reach. The introductory phrase of verse 4 completes the sentence (“a narrow channel of a wadi away from [or because of] dust”). There is no way to be sure how this obscure phrase relates to mining operations.

In verse 4, the wording of the Septuagint that is not added from the version of Theodotion differs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. “Those of mortals forgetting the righteous way became weak.” By ignoring the right way, the divinely approved course, individuals end up in a weak or helpless state. They are left without God’s aid and guidance.

Starting with verse 5 through to the initial phrase of verse 9, the marks of Origen in the third century CE indicate that the Greek text was added from the version of Theodotion, for it was not contained in the Septuagint available to him.

According to the marks of Origen in the third century CE, the wording of verses 14 through 19 is added from the Greek version of Theodotion.

In verse 15, the Greek version of Theodotion retained the meaning “enclosure” for the Hebrew word segóhr. The initial phrase reads, “He will not give an enclosure instead of it.” In this case, however, some translators have chosen the meaning “massiveness,” that is, a massive pile of gold.

In verse 16, the Greek text supports the meaning onyx for the Hebrew word shóham, but there is considerable uncertainty about whether this is the correct significance. The Septuagint is inconsistent in how it renders shóham. The Greek terms include berýllion (beryl), prasinos (“light green” stone), sárdion (sardius), smáragdos (“bright green” stone, probably emerald), and soóm (possibly carnelian).

Without the addition from the Greek version of Theodotion, the Septuagint text of verses 21 and 22 reads, “It [wisdom] has escaped detection from every man. But we have heard of the report of it” or “of its fame.” In the version of Theodotion, the introductory phrase to the words about having heard is, “Destruction and Death said.”

Verse 26 in the Septuagint says, “When he [God] had thus done, he calculated rain.” This possibly could be understood to mean that, since God created everything, including winds and water, he also calculated the amount of rainfall. The next phrase, according to the marks of Origen in the third century CE, was added from the Greek version of Theodotion. This obscure phrase is, “and a way in the quaking — sounds.” Possibly the thought is that God prepared a way for the rumble of the sound of thunder. This sound is comparable to that caused by the shaking or quaking of the land during an earthquake.

The initial phrase of verse 27 in the Greek text corresponds to the reading of the extant Hebrew text (“then he saw it and declared it”). Origen, in the third century CE, marked this phrase as having been added from the Greek version of Theodotion. When the added phrase is omitted, the text of the Septuagint appears to relate to what God has done in relation to the rain. “Having prepared, he kept track.”